I am so excited to have my very dear friend, Marilyn Brant, visiting today. Welcome, Marilyn! And thank you so much for being here.

Marilyn’s newest release, A SUMMER IN EUROPE, is in bookstores now, and she was kind enough to make me a stop on her amazing blog tour featuring some of the wonderful European cities from her personal travels – and the pages of her book. (“Brant’s charming and engaging tale will allow readers to immerse themselves in the magic and beauty of Europe along with the characters. Although the descriptions of the scenery are amazing, the development of the characters and their unique personalities are what really make this novel shine. What an enjoyable escape!” ~Romantic Times)

I couldn’t be happier or more delighted to let Marilyn take us away to Salzburg….

A Summer in Europe: The Hills Are Alive in Salzburg

First of all, MANY thanks to Robin for inviting me here today. I love getting to visit my friends on the web, and it’s a treat to be back as a guest on her blog!!

My third women’s fiction book, A Summer in Europe (http://tinyurl.com/3qk8nt8), just came out at the start of the month. It’s a story about a junior-high math teacher named Gwen, who gets a month-long grand European tour as a 30th birthday gift from her eccentric Aunt Bea and her aunt’s Sudoku-and-Mahjongg Club. Gwen has never had an adventure overseas before—she’s rarely ever even left the Midwest—so each day of her trip brings with it a rush of new experiences, and they often make her question what she thought she wanted out of life or thought she knew about herself.

Well, as some of you may know, I’ve been celebrating this new book by taking a journey around the web to share some of my favorite European sites and to explain how my own real-life memories from visits abroad influenced the writing of this novel. What most of you might not know is that it was an email conversation with Robin that first gave me the idea to do this!! (Hugs and thanks to you, lovely Ms. Bielman!) The place I get to talk about today is where I saw one of the most breathtaking vistas in all of our travels—high up in the Alps surrounding Salzburg—and it’s also the spot where I got to get a little closer to two of my musical idols: Julie Andrews and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Now, I should tell you, I saw The Sound of Music for the first time when I was in 3rd grade, and I immediately wanted to be Maria von Trapp and/or Julie Andrews. (In my young mind, they were interchangeable…although, I’ll confess, I did not want to be a nun, but I pretended I was the later Maria/Julie, when she was frolicking around Salzburg with the kids and singing songs about goatherds…) The Alps looked absolutely stunning onscreen, and I’d dreamed from that night onward of someday getting to see them for real.

So, fast-forward about 15 years: a couple of months after my husband and I got engaged, we took a trip to Europe and ended up staying in the city of Salzburg for five days. (This was the longest we spent in any one city during our first summer’s backpacking excursions, btw, but we discovered really inexpensive lodgings and there was just so much to do!) At the youth hostel where we were staying, we met a couple our age from Australia, and the four of us hiked up to Hohensalzburg Castle, a fortress built on a hill that dominated the view of the city. We walked through the town of Salzburg, visiting Mozart’s birthplace/home, taste-testing weisswurst sausage that was grilled and sold in one of the squares, and window shopping while student musicians played their violins on street corners.

And we went on two tours—the first was The Sound of Music tour, complete with a trip to Mirabell Gardens (used in the “Do-Re-Mi” song from the film), the gazebo (“Sixteen Going on Seventeen”), and the lake, which is shown in the photo that somebody snapped of my hubby and me. It was used on the set as the backyard of the von Trapp family home in the movie. (Remember the falling-out-of-the-canoe scene?!) I couldn’t stop humming “the hills are alive…” for an entire week.


Many people also go to the salt mines when they visit Salzburg, and we considered that. Perhaps, if we ever get there again, we will, too. But my husband, with his background in world history, knew of a place he wanted to go for our second tour, and it was a site that turned out to have some of the most beautiful mountain views I’d ever seen—The Eagle’s Nest. Technically, it’s not in Austria, although our tour departed from near Mirabell Gardens, but it’s located just across the border into Germany. There’s a building atop the mountain that once belonged to Hitler as a retreat before it was captured by the Allies in WWII. I don’t remember much from the interior of the building, though, because I was so blown away by the mountains surrounding us. I spent most of my time at the top wandering around outside and just gazing at them in awe!

I couldn’t highlight all of the places we visited on my heroine’s tour of Europe, but I specifically included The Sound of Music and The Eagle’s Nest tours because I felt they would be sites her tour guide would have taken the group and, also, because they simply were—wait for it—a few of my favorite things, LOL.

What are a few of YOUR favorite things? Foods you’ve tried, places you’ve visited, activities you’ve enjoyed, etc…? (I’ll give away one A SUMMER IN EUROPE t-shirt and a luggage tag to one of today’s commenters. ;)

Robin here… And I’m throwing in a copy of A SUMMER IN EUROPE! So one lucky commenter will win the book AND a t-shirt and luggage tag! The giveaway is open through Tuesday, December 13th. I’ll post the winner on Wednesday, December 14th.

If you’ve got a case of winter wanderlust like me, my book tour/grand European adventure is in progress with most of the “trip itinerary” below:

Friday 11/25: Rome at Magical Musings (http://magicalmusings.com)
Monday 11/28: Pompeii at SOS Aloha (http://sosaloha.blogspot.com)
Tuesday 11/29: Isle of Capri at the Stiletto Gang (http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com)
Wednesday 11/30: Venice at Girlfriends Book Club (http://girlfriendbooks.blogspot.com)
Thursday 12/1: Budapest at Women’s Fiction Writers (http://womensfictionwriters.wordpress.com)
Friday 12/2: Florence at Writer Unboxed (http://writerunboxed.com)
Monday 12/5: London at Austen Authors (http://austenauthors.net)
Tuesday 12/6: Salzburg at Robin Bielman’s blog (https://robinbielman.com/blog)
Wednesday 12/7: Lake Como at Brant Flakes (http://marilynbrant.blogspot.com)

And I’ll be featuring other cities in the days and weeks following, too, such as Pisa, Vienna, Brussels and Paris. (The full list of travel stops will be updated through the month on my website: http://www.marilynbrant.com .) I hope you’ll join me for a few other cities on the tour!! And if you’d like to read an excerpt from A Summer in Europe, which is a Literary Guild and Rhapsody Book Club featured alternate selection for December 2011, you can find one here:  http://www.marilynbrant.com/MBbooksEURO.html

Thanks, again, to Robin and to all of you, and best wishes for the start of the holiday season!


Praise for the novel:

“Brant’s newest…distinguishes itself with a charismatic leading man and very funny supporting cast, especially the wonderful elderly characters with their resonant message about living life to the fullest.” ~Publishers Weekly

“Marilyn Brant’s A Summer in Europe is a wonderful tale that captivates readers as Gwen, transformed by her surroundings, undergoes a change of heart about life…and love.” ~Doubleday Book Club

“How I wish I were on this European tour with Marilyn Brant’s winsome, wonderful characters. I loved every minute of this delightful novel, from the breathtaking sights to the deliciously described food to the thrilling new experiences.” ~Melissa Senate, bestselling author of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School and See Jane Date

“A Summer in Europe is Brant’s best book yet. A thinking woman’s love story, it swept me away to breathtaking places with a cast of endearing characters I won’t soon forget. Bravissima!” ~ Susan McBride, author of Little Black Dress and The Cougar Club

“Marilyn Brant has done it again: she has crafted a warm and wise novel filled with characters that live on in your imagination. Make sure your passport is in order. After reading A Summer in Europe you’ll want to book your flight immediately!” ~ Laura Moore, author of Remember Me (The Rosewood Trilogy)

“Reading a Marilyn Brant book is like eating a piece of rich chocolate – it gets you excited, it’s deliciously satisfying, and it leaves a smile on your face after you’ve finished it!” ~Simone Elkeles, NY Times & USA Today bestselling author


Posted December 6, 2011 by Robin Bielman in Books, Favorite Authors, Giveaway / 51 Comments

51 responses to “A Summer In Europe

    • Charlene, thank you so much! I wish I could take even a little credit for the cover (I love it, too!), but the designer — Kristine Mills — at Kensington gets it all. She did a lovely job ;).

  1. Robin

    Good morning Marilyn and Charlene!

    Marilyn ~ it’s an honor to have you here! Thanks again!
    Charlene ~ thank you for stopping by! I’m suffering from wanderlust too!

  2. Great post! Makes me want to travel! I’ve never been outside of the US. Hoping to change that one day! The book looks great! Congrats!

    • Jennifer, it’s so nice of you to stop by to comment, thank you! As for travel, I know… It’s my favorite thing, too, and I haven’t been able to do much of it lately — but soon, I hope!!

  3. Thanks Robin and what a great article. Marilyn one of my favorite movies is The Sound of Music and I have to admit that I did think of that as I read One Summer in Europe.
    My husband and I went to Mexico one winter and basked on the white beaches in Cancun and ate the best fresh seafood at an outside hut, I can still taste the Red Snapper.
    Thanks for a great new novel, oh and BTW you’ll have to stay tuned for my best of 201 list, it’s coming out sometime in the next week or so. I think you’ll be happy :chic:

    • Red Snapper!! Yum… I love seafood, too, Deb, and I know I’m going to love your list next week :). How do I thank you for being so incredibly supportive of me and this book?! xox As for Mexico, it’s one place I’ve never been, at least not yet. I’ve heard the beaches in Cancun are very beautiful…sigh. It’s December, so I’m already daydreaming about warm weather!

  4. I love to travel and explore new places and customs. One place that spoke deeply to me was the highlands of Scotland. I had the same reaction you did, I just wanted to stay outside and soak it all in. : ) The book sounds awesome. Congrats! and much success.

    • Robena, thank you! I’m envious of your trip to the Scottish highlands — I didn’t get that far north, but I would have loved to have seen that region! We were really only in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas when we visited Scotland. One day, though, I’d love to go back to see the highlands and, maybe, try to spot Nessie ;).

  5. Marilyn, you and your husband look so cute together. I’m so jealous of your tour and especially your stop at Salzburg. Did you feel like Maria when you were there? LOL

    I have Marilyn’s book (and it’s now one of my favorites), so don’t enter me in the giveaway for it.

    • Edie, thank you, as always… xox
      As for feeling like Maria — well, I would have felt MORE like her if I could sing a fraction as well, LOL! I twirled around in place a few times (until I felt a little dizzy) and then just stared at the Alps all around. They looked gorgeous…and almost fake because they were so picture perfect. I almost expected Paramount Pictures to swoop in and roll up the backdrop!! (:chic)

  6. Liz V.

    You are so right about the scenery around Salzburg. Sound of Music had just been released, so there was no tour. But we visited the cathedral where the wedding was staged. I hated the slide in the salt mines.

    And at Berchtesgaden, we rode to the top of Eagles Nest in an incredible elevator and stayed at a hotel that had been converted in WWII to SS barracks. Remember playing Monopoly–on a German board–next to a cozy fire. Most of the surrounding area was, however, a US Army golf course and Nazi areas were still blocked off. (Does this give away my age! ?:-))

    • Liz, IMO, I think “young at heart” is the only age that matters!! (And I remind myself of that with each passing year. :) ) Your experience staying at a hotel up there must have been fascinating, and I keep trying to imagine a German Monopoly board…

      As for Salzburg, thank you! You’ve made me feel a little less guilty about missing that visit to the salt mines (I don’t think I would have liked the slide either). But wasn’t seeing the cathedral interesting? I was so surprised by how small it was compared to what I’d expected. Based on the way they filmed the wedding scene, I thought it would be ENORMOUS!!

  7. Robin

    Hi Dee J. and Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by.

    I haven’t been to too many places outside the U.S., Dee J., and never to Europe, so I’m dying to go there!

    Jen, I want to sneak into one of your suitcases and travel with you. You’ve been to many places, I know, and have a trip coming up soon. Have room for one more? ;)

  8. Robin

    Hi Debbie! Thank you for visiting! I’ve never been to Cancun and long to go one day! The beach is one of my favorite places and I’ve heard it’s beautiful there.

    Hi Robena! Scotland is on my list too! (I have such a long list.) And I must say, ever since I finished reading Marilyn’s book – which is fantastic! – I’ve been looking at all my surroundings in a new way. Thanks for being here, Robena!

    Hi Edie! It’s so nice to see you! Marilyn and her hubby *are* adorable. I’ve so enjoyed her photos on all her blog stops.

    Liz, it sounds like you’ve done some incredible traveling too! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Jakki L.

    I am loving all the beautiful photos of you and your husband, Marilyn! I also love how genuine your smiles appear- like you guys are actually enjoying yourselves and enjoying your company! You two make a sweet couple! :) My dad was German, so my mom made lots of sauerkraut and sausage. Never cared for it growing up, but now I love the stuff and love a good sausage with sauerkraut. Oh a side note, my neighbor and dear friend is Kenyan and for her graduation from grad school last year she ordered sausage online that she used to eat back in Kenya, in addition to the celebratory goat. Let me tell you what, I have never had better sausage than that! They were links and I think I ate about a dozen! :silly:

    • Jakki, thanks for all the nice comments about me and my hubby! We did have a lovely time on those trips — and we did get into an argument or two as well, that we worked out! — so it was was a very good bonding experience.

      You’re making me so hungry with talk of sausage!! The kind your friend from Kenya ordered must’ve been delicious…yum…and her graduation party must’ve been a wonderful celebration.

      In Wisconsin, there are a lot of people with a German heritage and I think we get some great specialty foods as a result — including sausage. I’m still not completely sold on the merits of sauerkraut, however, LOL! In honor of you, though, I’ll give it another try the next time I’m back in WI. ;)

  10. Maria

    Oh, Salzburg was definitely one of my favorite places and I made my sister take a “Sound of Music” picture of me spinning in a “mountain field”. Okay, we staged it, but it got it done. My favorite place on that trip was Prague. I loved that city. My sister’s was Budapest and probably Buda because we stayed on that side. There were far too many great meals for me to pick from on that tour. Makes me want to get back over there. Hopefully in 2013!

    • Maria, what a great trip you and your sister took!! Salzburg, Prague and Budapest, too! I LOVE that you spun around and took a Sound of Music picture! Although, of course, your name IS Maria. You have a special claim :). Fingers crossed for you in 2013!

  11. Robin

    Marilyn – sorry about the picture glitch when you reply to a comment. I’m not sure why it’s doing that, but I’ll try and get it fixed. (Hopefully, it’s only me seeing it.)

    • Not to worry, Robin! I’ve noticed it, too, but it doesn’t seem to be interferring with the ability to leave comments or even click on my name (the “Brant” part is still visible and the hyperlink works). It might just be the way the template works…

  12. Congratulations on another terrific book, Marilyn! I loved all your pictures, but my absolute favorite detail was that a conversation with Robin inspired it. How super cool!!!

    • Caryn, thank you so much! I’m so glad you liked the pictures. And Robin should definitely get credit for being an inspiration. (I now feel a Chicago song coming on my mental radio… ;) )

  13. Robin

    Hi Jakki! Thank you for stopping by. I’m hungry for sausage now too!

    Hi Maria! I can totally see you spinning! I didn’t know you’d traveled so much. You’ll have to tell me more about the places you’ve been sometime. Thanks for popping in!

    Hey Jax! You will love this book! Thank you for being here!

    Hey Caryn! Didn’t you know I’m the queen of inspiration? Ha! Just joking. I was thrilled, though, that I was able to plant a seed in Marilyn’s mind – the rest of the credit goes to her. She’s amazing, as we well know! Thanks so much for always being a part of my posts!

  14. Beth

    Loved the excerpt. Made me get that “get up and go” feeling again.I love being out to greet a new sunrise on a crisp clear day, the earth after rainfall, Robin’s banana bread (the best), Carol’s snickerdoodle cookies, hearing my grandson, Chick Magnet’s jokes, hugs from grandson, Killer Lefty. Traveling has always been a passion. I’m an armchair traveler now-not quite as good as being there, but, almost. :-))

    • Beth, even if this is just a virtual introduction, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to get to meet Robin’s mom!!! Thanks so much for taking time to visit and to read a little about my book. BTW, I love hearing that Robin makes the best banana bread, although I always knew she was a woman of many talents :). I’m sure you know this, but you have a wonderful daughter!

  15. Robin

    Hey, Mom!! You are awesome to stop by today! You’ve been to so many great places all over the world, I bet you and Marilyn would have a lot to talk about!

  16. I was lucky enough to win an advance copy of this lovely book, so don’t enter me in the contest. Just wanted to say hi to Marilyn, a wonderful writer and gracious person. My favorite stop in Europe? Venice. I was enchanted! And frequently got lost in the maze of canals, but could not care at all for it was such a beautiful city to wander around.

    • Lucie, thank you!! It’s so kind of you to visit me here ;). And yes…Venice. I think yes is always the answer to Venice, at least for me! (Is it beautiful? Did you enjoy it? Was it as charming as it looks? etc.) I *loved* it all and, like you, felt completely enchanted by it. Sigh. Would love to go back…

  17. Robin

    Hi, Lucie! Thanks so much for stopping in! I hope to get to Venice one day! Like you, I won’t mind getting lost in the maze of canals.

  18. This book sounds wonderful! Looking forward to curling up with it this winter – as curling up with a good book, under a warm blanket, is one of my favorite things to do on a cold winter day. I can’t call myself an “armchair” traveler because I do my traveling from my couch!

    • LOL, Gwendolyn! Like you and Robin, I also love the couch ;). And I’m so excited to meet a real Gwendolyn!! I hope you’ll like the Gwen in the story — I’m very fond of her!

  19. Robin

    Hi, Janie! London is definitely one of the places I want to visit one day.

    Hi, Gwendolyn! Oh, you must read this book as you share the beautiful first name of the main character! (I still love when I read a book and there’s a character with my name.) I’m more of a couch traveler, too, but one day plan to change that. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  20. Ann

    The Sound of Music tour is on my list of things to do. I was fortunate to visit Austria and Italy but never made it to the tour.

    • Ann, if you’re a fan of the musical, it’s particularly fun to go on the tour just to see spots you’ll recognize from the film, but getting to visit Austria and Italy at all is a wonderful thing! Glad you were able to go there and here’s hoping you’ll get to go back ;).

  21. Robin

    Hi Ann and Jeryl ~ thanks for stopping by! Now I’ve got “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” in my head. :)

Leave a Reply